Tasmanian Homœopathic Association

  • Abstract:
    The Tasmanian Homœopathic Association was formed in 1898, the result of the amalgamation of the Northern Tasmanian Homœopathic League and the Southern Tasmanian Homœopathic League. Both of the Leagues were initiated as a direct result of the boycotting tactics taken by the allopathic doctors in those areas. The homœopathic community realised that they needed to join together in order to convey their message to the general public and to establish hospitals where they would be able to treat their patients using the principles of homœopathy.

(Material researched & presented by Barbara Armstrong)



In May 1897 Mrs Styant Browne (wife of the homœopathic pharmacist F. Styant Browne) and several other women in Launceston announced that they wanted to establish a women's hospital as a memorial to Queen Victoria. It was to be called the Queen Victoria Hospital for Women. Launceston's only qualified homœopath, Dr Gutteridge, was asked to speak in support of the hospital, and as a result supporters of homœopathy (among others) worked hard, subscribing liberally to the project.


Dr Gutteridge was asked to act as one of the honorary medical officers on the staff of the hospital. The other honorary medical officers were allopaths. As a result of Dr Gutteridge's appointment, one of the other medical officers threatened to resign if Dr Gutteridge was allowed to remain on the medical staff. When the committee did not take any action, the allopathic doctor resigned.


Following that failed attempt to remove Dr Gutteridge from the staff of the hospital, in early September 1897 a Launceston branch of the British Medical Association was formed by the local allopaths. (It was actually formed as a sub-branch of the Victorian branch of the B.M.A.) As the rules of the B.M.A. prevented them from consulting with a homœopath, the allopathic staff of the hospital stated that it would be impossible for them to work with Dr Gutteridge. Intended as a threat to the hospital committee to force them to sack Dr Gutteridge, this caused a furore throughout the north of Tasmania, and especially those subscribers who had believed that they would be able to receive homœopathic treatment at the hospital. The allopaths then said that they had been misunderstood and that they had no objections to there being a separate ward run by Dr Gutteridge, provided he could get at least two other doctors besides those on the staff to consult with him in cases of emergency. However, the B.M.A. representatives also announced that 'any practitioner who is willing to consult with the homœopathic practitioner should be connected solely with that ward'. By implication, they were warning that such a practitioner would be excluded from working with their non-homœopathic colleagues.


Dr Gutteridge announced that he had found three such doctors willing to work with him, one more than required; all that was needed was the rules of the hospital to be altered as per the suggestion of the allopathic members, such that he could select his consultants from the three doctors offering their services. In the end, the committee (without the support of their subscribers) refused to alter the rules and they rescinded the resolution to establish a homœopathic ward at the hospital, also withdrawing their offer of a medical position to Dr Gutteridge.


The situation was described in The Mercury of 18 September, 1897:


The war between the allopathic and homœopathic factions of the medical profession, which has been going on all over the world for years, has at last broken out in earnest in Tasmania, and is likely to be fought out as keenly here as it has been in other parts. The contending parties managed to keep clear of each other until the establishment of the Queen Victoria Women's Hospital; and, unfortunately, the split has occurred in connection with the appointment of the medical staff for that institution. Out of the eight medical men so appointed one of them is a homœopath. The others strongly objected to associating with him, and in order to get over the difficulty the Women's committee decided to create a separate ward for the homœopath. They flattered themselves then that the matter was settled, but they were a trifle premature; for the general body of medicos here formed themselves into a branch of the British Medical Association, and have intimated to the committee that they refuse to act on the staff if any countenance whatever is extended to the gentleman who belongs to the rival school. It simply means that they intend to boycott homœopathy. The ladies committee have therefore been compelled to drop the homœopathic ward like the proverbial "hot potato," but in doing so they have drawn down upon themselves the wrath of the believers in that system, and they are likely to get a hot time of it. Taken all round, it is a pretty quarrel. The allopaths are strong in numbers, and are sure to have their own way; but the homœopaths are determined, and are not at all disposed to waive their claim to an interest in the Jubilee Hospital without a struggle. They hold a meeting to-night to consider the position.


The supporters of homœopathy met and resolved that the Mayor be requested to convene a meeting of all subscribers to the Hospital fund. This caused a flurry of additional subscriptions so that each side of the argument had more people in a position to vote. Legal opinion was also obtained, the findings being that the hospital committee had been appointed solely to collect subscriptions, and that they did not have authority to proceed further than this. They should have called another public meeting and either received a fresh mandate to manage the hospital, or given the subscribers a chance to elect others. Therefore the committee's decisions regarding the selection of medical staff, for example, went beyond their legitimate powers.


The meeting of subscribers was duly held. The representatives of the hospital refused to answer any questions regarding the proposal for a homœopathic ward or the appointment and dismissal of Dr Gutteridge. The ladies' committee resolved to take no further part in the quarrel among the medical men, leaving them to come to their own arrangement.


As a direct result of the above actions, on October 21, 1897, a meeting of supporters of homœopathy was held in the Mechanics' Institute, Launceston, where they decided to form a the Northern Tasmanian Homœopathic League. The meeting also proposed establishing a homœopathic hospital as soon as possible. A committee was formed with Mr Henry Ritchie elected as President and F. Styant Browne elected as Honorary Secretary.


This first meeting started with an enrolment of 20 members. By October of the following year they reported that their numbers had risen to about 90, of which nearly one-third were in the country districts of Northern Tasmania.


Several months later, Dr Gutteridge stated that the attempt at medical boycotting was a dismal failure. 'It consolidated our forces; brought out many new friends both medical and lay.'



Around April of the following year, 1898, a branch of the B.M.A. was formed in Hobart. The same restrictive rules were announced - namely the determination of its members not to consult with nor assist in any way, medical practitioners practising the homœopathic system of medicine. This included the resolution that they would not administer chloroform for them in operations.


As a result, 'a large and influential meeting' was held at the Temperance Hall on 20 April to discuss the position of homœopathy in Hobart, given the boycott threatened by the members of the British Medical Association. According to the report, 'the meeting was enthusiastic, and many of the adherents of homœopathy in Hobart were present'.


At the meeting Mr E.C. Nowell (editor of the monthly publication Notes on Homœopathy in 1870-71) moved 'That in the opinion of the meeting it is desirable to form an association for the furtherance of the cause of homœopathy in Tasmania, and the spread of the truths of similia similibus curantur.' Mr H.T. Gould, homœopathic pharmacist, then moved 'That all present form themselves into a committee with power to add to their number, and that such committee meet as soon as possible to draw up rules'.


Mr F. Styant Browne telegraphed a message to the group stating his hearty sympathy. 'Union is strength. Our association [has] done much good here. Truth and right will prevail.'


Although the committee strongly believed that supporters of homœopathy should be able to be treated in the General Hospital without being forced to accept a treatment they did not believe to be the best, they admitted that that the difficulties in achieving this were insurmountable given the hold which the allopaths had over the constitution of the Board of the Hospital and its system of management. A year previously a member of the committee of the Hobart Hospital who was sympathetic to homœopathy had unsuccessfully moved that a ward be set aside for the practice of homœopathy. Dr Gibson had also tried to secure one bed, offering to defray any extra expense which might be incurred over the cost of the ordinary hospital treatment, but this had also failed. Instead of wasting valuable time in combatting them, the League had decided to establish a separate homœopathic hospital in Hobart.

By the end of October it was reported that their membership numbers in the South had risen to 101.



Shortly thereafter, by June 1898, north and south joined together to form the Tasmanian Homœopathic Association. Mr Nowell was appointed as President.


On 1 June 1898 The Mercury announced the formation of the Tasmanian Homœopathic Association and the publication of the Tasmanian Homœopathic Journal, the first edition of which was to appear that day. By November 1899 it was reported that many of the members who were entitled to a copy of the Journal received more, in order to pass them on to their friends. Up to 700 copies per month were sent through the post throughout the northern districts, from Ross and St Helen's to Waratah and Circular Head. The last mention of the Journal was for the August 1901 edition.


A year after the formation of the Northern Tasmanian Homœopathic League, the Tasmanian Homœopathic Association held its first annual meeting in Hobart. (It had been decided that the annual meeting should be held alternately in Hobart and Launceston in October.) About 60 members were present at the meeting 'including a number of ladies'.


By this time there were two homœopaths in Launceston (Drs Gutteridge and P. Douglas Smith) and three in Hobart (Drs Benjafield, G.H. Gibson, and Bernard Thomas).


Mr Nowell stated:


They were all probably aware that the cause for which the association had been called into existence was owing to the opposition of certain practitioners in the North. When people told them they were not fit to consult and to join with them in any business, they naturally felt grieved, and when this arose from mere differences of opinion they could not help feeling that those men were behind the time. Homœopathy had been proved by results to be a much more efficacious mode of treatment in diseases than any other; and the reason this association had been called into being was to maintain and defend their position which they had proved by experience was the correct one. There were two things of the utmost importance to the human race. One was temperance, not merely abstinence from alcoholic drinks, but temperance in every possible way, in indulgence in pleasures, and even in business itself, or theoretically, as the word itself meant, self-control. The other was homœopathy, which kept people in health. He did not feel disposed to take part in anything that looked like antagonism to their medical friends who did not think as they did; but they were compelled to maintain their position, and show the superiority of homœopathy over allopathy. It was like one of those strong trees which they were told the stronger the wind blew the deeper did it strike its roots.


The Tasmanian Homœopathic Journal recommended the federation of Homœopathic Associations of Australasia and New Zealand into one compact body, along lines similar to those governing the Homœopathic Congress of Great Britain. This did not eventuate.


The second annual meeting of the Tasmanian Homœopathic Association was held on 8 November 1899 in Launceston. The attendance was small. Representatives from Hobart (Dr Gibson and Mr Gould) sent apologies as they were prevented from attending because of an influenza epidemic. Mr Styant Browne commented: 'We are sorry not to welcome some of the southern members to this meeting, but feel that only pressing demands have kept them away, and trust that our next annual meeting may be honoured by their presence. I trust that our association will continue to increase its sphere of usefulness and help greatly to spread abroad the glorious truths of homœopathy.'


During the year the activities of both the Launceston and Hobart centres for homœopathy had concentrated on the development of funds for the homœopathic hospitals in each location. According to the annual report:


A deputation, representing both centres of the association, waited upon the Treasurer in June last, asking him to place upon the estimates £250 each for north and south on the £1 for every £1 principle towards the funds, which were being raised for the purpose of establishing homœopathic hospitals in Hobart and Launceston. After consultation with Ministers, the Treasurer granted the request, thus giving an additional incentive to those who were working for the establishment of these institutions.


The Hobart Homœopathic Hospital was opened by the Premier on 26 September 1899. The Launceston Homœopathic Hospital was opened by the Premier 2 July 1900.


It appears that by this stage the supporters of homœopathy were concentrating their efforts on the successful management and operation of each of the two homœopathic hospitals, rather than meeting together as a whole organisation.


The last mention of the Tasmanian Homœopathic Journal was for the August 1901 edition.


The last specific mention in Tasmanian newspapers of the Homœopathic Association was in 1902.


©   Barbara Armstrong